MIFTAH Launches Citizens’ Rights Guidebook
June 13, 2011

Ramallah – As part of its Fostering Community Change in the oPT, on June 13, MIFTAH launched the publication of its Citizens’ Rights Guidebook in Ramallah. The initiative is a joint project between MIFTAH, OXFAM-GB, the Women’s Studies Center, Palestinian Vision and the Ansar Center and funded by the European Union.

The workshop was opened with speeches by MIFTAH’s CEO, Dr. Lily Feidy and representatives from OXFAM-GB and the EU. In her welcoming speech, Dr. Feidy highlighted the significance of the project and its importance in the Palestinian context. “Through this initiative, we hope to bring to the fore issues that require intervention from various local and international parties and to offer direct technical assistance through building the capabilities of the targeted communities.”

The project, which was especially unique in that it reaches out to marginalized regions of the Palestinian territories, aims at raising the awareness of Palestinians on their citizens’ rights. “Through this initiative and the expertise acquired by widening the circle of partnership, we hope to put in motion the wheel of local development,” Dr. Feidy said.

The project was primarily implemented in the Jordan Valley villages of Zbeidat, Fasayel, Jiftlik and Ouja and the Bethlehem-area village of Al Walajah mainly in Area C and all of which suffer under harsh Israeli occupation measures given their location in the Jordan Valley and along the Jerusalem border respectively.

Mr. Tim Holmes, Country Director of OXFAM GB in OPT then took the podium, outlining both the work of OXFAM in general in terms of its efforts to overcome poverty and suffering and its relationship to the project in particular. The project, he said, “aims to facilitate opportunities for communities, especially youth, women and community organizations to demand their rights, access services and engage proactively with government actors and other stakeholders through social and political empowerment.”

Ms. Fabienne Bessonne, Head of the Social Affairs Section in the Office of the EU Representative then spoke about the EU’s Non-State Actors program by which the Fostering Community Change project is funded. The program, she said, is aimed at fostering capacity building of non-state actors, especially CBOs in addition to poverty alleviation. “It is very important that all projects address both objectives, which this project is doing exactly,” she said. The five targeted communities, she continued have been particularly affected by the Israeli occupation and the project aims at “empowering them in order to claim their rights and support concrete projects of economic and social development.”

MIFTAH project coordinator Lamis Shu’aibi then gave a summary on behalf of the partners, highlighting the project and its importance within Palestinian society.

The two year project, which began in April, 2010 will be completed in September 2012. The guidebook is a culmination of the expertise and experience of the partners, researchers and field workers involved in the project. The guidebook’s main objectives are to strengthen awareness and knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of effective citizenship, build community participation on issues pertaining to needs and rights, develop lobbying, advocacy and networking skills on needs and rights, and define community needs and indentify intervention mechanisms to address them.

A number of representatives from government and non-governmental organizations attended the workshop including representatives from the prime minister’s office ministries,, international organizations, community committees, youth mobilizes and the village councils.